It's been such a long time since I wrote anything on here that I really don't know how to start. I've got pictures on my camera going right back to July, so I'll try and keep it as short as possible otherwise it'll be Christmas before I've caught up.
From May through September we had a near constant stream of friends and family coming up to visit, some of which even braved staying in the house, others played it safer and took the sensible route of renting a cottage, which was great for us since they had working plumbing..!
I visited Dorset for the last time for a while at the beginning of July to sing in a leavers concert for my old music teacher, Mr Baker, and was joined on my journey home by Ben, my cousin. Turns out the Megabus is not ideal if you 6 ft 4, go with National Express, its £15 London-Glasgow, not £9 but there is much more legroom.
Anyway, since then, I have been working with Gary, which has been somewhat of an eye opener, 5 months later, I'm still not quite sure how he manages to work quite so many hours and accomplish so much so quickly. I am definitely not there yet. (or ever)
I've put all the work on the house at the top, an awful lot more has happened than this, but it will have to wait until next time.
Gary definitely wouldn't let me get away with this....
Archie wasn't impressed that his room was being taken apart again!
Gary and I spent a lot of time replacing the rotten 'safe' wooden lintels above the doorways and windows throughout the house with new concrete lintels.
The rubble left after removing an old lintel.
Cutting the new concrete lintels to size.
Towards the end of summer we started finding red admiral butterflies hibernating all over the house, Nick even went up into the attic one morning because he though he could hear a rat, which turned out to be yet another butterfly. Easy mistake to make...!
This is our main fireplace after I chipped out the old lime mortar from the back ready for Gary to render it the next day.
In between other jobs, we fitted all of the new downstairs windows bar two in the old hotel kitchen which still hasn't had its floor dug out. The house looks so much better in itself with them.
Cassie loved playing in the sand blinding before we concreted. It wasn't hugely helpful for keeping it level though.
We had to prop up the beam from the sides of the room rather than the floor while we concreted.
Each of the fires has to have an air vent leading outside to replace the oxygen it combusts. The downstairs ones are buried under the concrete.
I hope those aren't my footprints..
Somewhere I have some photos of Gary laying the concrete, but they will have to follow. We laid this floor at the beginning of September, with just the two of us as Mary-Ann and Nick had gone for a week away on the mainland.
The supporting wall between the two downstairs rooms in Sandy and Tom's has been altered so many times that it really wasn't doing that great of a job supporting anymore. We had noticed before that the chimney stack it holds up had moved a few inches.
In fact, at one point, whilst Gary was building up the doorway so that we could put in the new lintel, part of it was balanced on just the one stone below.
Parts of the wall were hollow. We're having to fill it in in sections so as not to take away too much of the support at any one time.
We found this piece of tree, complete with bark nailed to the side of a rotten joist... I really don't think it was doing much good to be honest!
Another day, another lintel. Or 3.
This was quite a bad one, over the window in the old hotel kitchen, we had to put 6x2 down the sides of four of the joists that were also rotten.
Once we had concreted the floor in the old blue room Gary could start to build up the dividing wall between the two houses. It all started to get a bit serious for me here, so much of it relied on me getting my part right before he could even start! And no, I didn't get much of it right to start with.. It's all very well playing at being a builders labourer when all you're doing is screwing in the occasional screw, holding things and sweeping up, but when I started having to set up the blocks and boards (above) and mix cement, that was when I started to feel like a complete fraud. I remember thinking when I was shovelling that first barrow of cement onto the boards, that the whole thing was completely surreal, I mean, I'm a girl, I'm 5ft 3 and embarrassingly clumsy- yep, that person you see tripping over their own feet whilst waking along a flat surface? That's me. Mixing and shovelling cement was something I'd watched my grandad do, I remember him showing me, when I was about 5, how to mix it back up again to get the right consistency when it's been left some, while he and Dad built our conservatory back in Dorset. Essentially I felt like a fraud, like I was 5 years old again, playing at building with my grandad. In the end though, the job title doesn't matter, often I'm so useless that Gary has to do half his labouring for himself, but I'm enjoying every minute of it, so many people don't ever find something that they enjoy, and that's what counts.
Anyway, getting back to the 'seriousness' of building the dividing wall...!
Gary cutting blocks, really I'm supposed to do this, but usually I'm so far behind with everything else. I'm also pretty terrible at it.
The wall is double skinned and lined with insulation for sound.
Once the wall was up to level with the first floor, Gary could build pillars up on either side of the room to hold the beam up across the middle of the room.
I took ages trying to take a decent photo of Gary as he was moving so fast!
Putting the beam into position. It is comprised of 4 lengths of 9''x3'' which we had to get by special order through keyline. We were originally going to use steel RSJs, but after Mary-Ann spent 6 weeks trying to arrange to buy them and have them shipped to the island, we gave up an bought wood instead. The wood is classed C24, which means that they are hand picked for their strength and quality, based on the number, of knots, the grain etc. The wood we use for the frame work is only classed C16, so isn't so strong, and also, not as expensive. (I said I was listening!)
This fireplace had already been bricked up when the house was converted to a hotel in 1972, Gary decided we'd better take out a couple of bricks to make sure it was safe... behind it we found all the builders rubbish, bits of old wood, whiskey bottles, cigarette packets and even an old milk carton. There's another fireplace on the other side, so its a good job we looked as it was a real fire hazard.
Islay told us that Lagavulin Dairy Farm was knocked down over 20 years ago, but used to be on the left of the road opposite the distillery.
Gary and Nick stand back and leave me to get covered in dust taking out all the rubble.
And here it is at the end of the day after Gary blocked it up properly. I still need to fill up the hole with concrete though...
At the other end of the room we have moved the chimney flue to the left a bit for the fireplace and blocked up a little bit more of the hollow rickety wall, as well as the original fireplace.
And that's it for work for the moment. Gary, Islay and I have been down at Kintra again these past 2 weeks replacing another smaller roof before the winter storms set in, although listening to wind outside, I think they're already here...
A sunset rainbow.
We usually only get the sunrise as we face south east, but during September, we had some impressive sunsets behind the house aswell.
This one dates right back to Nick's birthday in June, we spent the day on this beach on the Oa, with a beach fire, otters, goats and both the dogs.
In July, we built two sheds onto the house to store supplies and for Nick's workshop as we had stated work in all rooms of the house everything had to be moved out- it's always creeping back in though! Gary built the framework with us, and Bob and Mark covered it with plastic.
A common seal with her pup in seal bay.
Ben and I attempted a walk up the Fairy Hill in midsummer, but were defeated by the bracken, which towered way over my head!
In July we watched a heron in the bay catch 5 flatfish in a row. It had it's routine down to an art, following the same pattern every time, it stalked the fish first, then dived for it, once caught it took it onto the beach, hit it on the sand then washed it in the fresh water of the stream before swallowing it whole.
We had so many beach fires that Mary-Ann over a table down.
Mark, Bob, Jan, Nick, Lottie and Cassie.
I think I must be in denial... She really isn't a puppy anymore. She turned 1 in September!
My cousin, also Jenny, confusing, I know, and I took an afternoon off and went riding at Ballivicar farm one afternoon whilst they were here from Ireland in August.
Alan and Ellie flying a kite at Kilnaughton Bay.
I mentioned sunrises earlier, here's just a few of the best. September is definitely the month for them.
In July we took Gary canoeing for the first time after work, it proved to be a hit and meant that we went out much more often than we would have done otherwise. We even stopped work at lunchtime one day whilst it was really hot and went out paddling and then swimming for the afternoon!ø
I took a risk and brought my camera out paddling with me a few times. It's not the easiest thing in the world trying to take photos when you're moving all the time, but the seals were very cooperative!
Looking back toward the house.
Beinn Bheiger from our bay.
The sun going down behind the fairy hill.
Mary-Ann, Gary and Nick have got the synchronised paddling thing sorted.
Deer on the islands.
We had amazing weather for late September into October, barely any rain.
One afternoon we paddled out to Eilean A Chuirn and had coffee and biscuits by the lighthouse.
Rutting season was again exceptionally noisy, especially for me sleeping in the shed. Cassie and I went out looking for stags a couple of times and found this one by the loch at the bottom of the Fairy Hill. Unfortunately by the end of rutting season her confidence had increased so much that it was almost impossible to walk her without loosing her every 5 minutes..
Following deer scent is hard going apparently.
A few views from the top of the Fairy Hill. Mary-Ann took all out visitors up during October, Ben, Lucy, Lottie and Ollie all made it to the top, but it was a very different day from this one.
Beinn Bheiger in the distance.
The end shed ruins his view just a little bit.
In September Gary had to go and replace the roof and repaint Kintra farmhouse. I wish I'd taken a before photograph, but anyway, it's looking pretty amazing now. I had my first taste of working outside of the Dower House, turns out it's not quite as easy as first thought, I definitely need bigger muscles and to be able to function on less than 8 hours sleep a night! (She says, looking guiltily at the clock... those 8 hours aren't going to happen tonight..)
The roof took just less than a month, which gave Nick some time to catch up with the list of jobs as long as his arm that needed doing!
We both had to get new vehicles in September. (I definitely chose the colour first!) Mary-Ann ended up ferrying me and Gary's labourer to Kintra for a few weeks between bikes and vans. I think the wildlife we saw every morning made up for the early start, deer, sparrowhawks and hen harriers nearly every morning.
Bob came for the trip one morning to see the birds, but actually ended up loading some slates into the hoist for me... Sorry.
Gary didn't tell me about the kittens that were round the back of the house until we were just about to leave. I can't think why...!
A raven at Kintra.
Jan looking for the stag rutting just outside the garden.
Lottie, Mark, Ollie and Mikey enjoyed their holiday here in summer so much that they came up for October half term as well. There was a lot less swimming in the sea this time though and more fishing. We were all looking forward to seeing Lottie spear fish, but it was too cold, next summer maybe?!
I found a mode on my camera that just picks out one colour at a time, which is quite cool I am embarrassingly ignorant about what my camera can do.
Mark casts out the line. Little bit fuzzy...
For October half term, Ben and his Mum, my Aunty Lucy came up on he bus for a week. I didn't have much time off, but took a couple of half days. On one of these we went down to Singing Sands.
It's getting a colder now! Ben's bought Hunter Wellie socks to go with his Hunter wellies...
An otter print.
I got another day off at the beginning of Novemeber as Gary had some other jobs to do, so took advantage of it by driving down towards Ardtalla and walking out into the moorland and up one of the hills infront of Beinn Bheiger. It was an amazing day for rainbows, they kept popping up all over the place.
Looking from the hill above Claggan bay towards the Fairy Hill in the distance.
Walking back up the road to my bike I started talking to an older man who was on a mini bus tour. He was teaching me about the different bird noises he could hear, then when we reached my bike, he was desperate for me to give him a lift away from his mini bus! I had to say no unfortunately... I'm not sure my bike would have handled it.
Early November seems to be the time for beautiful moon rises so far.